Submitted by: Veronica Coffin
SCPR.org: The Los Angeles Unified School District is looking at a bill of $73 million to cover course development, textbooks and teacher training in ethnic studies, a new high school graduation requirement approved last year.
LAUSD’s school board ushered in the mandatory coursework in November,believing the rollout would cost an estimated $4 million.
Officials later clarified that the original figure was the cost to pull together a pilot program of 30 schools. A draft report from an advisory Ethnic Studies Committee released this week concludes that sum wouldn’t even cover textbooks for the trial run.
A major portion of the latest $73 million estimate is needed for teaching staff. “We figured we are going to have to add at least one teacher per school site, and that’s an ongoing cost,” said Angel Barrett, the district’s executive director of curriculum and instruction and among the committee’s members.
The committee, which includes administrators, teachers and scholars, recommended postponing the ethnic studies requirement so that it takes effect for the Class of 2022 rather than the Class of 2019. The delay would give high schools three more years to train and recruit the 250 teachers needed to implement the new requirement.
The ethnic studies report, released Thursday, comes out as the school board takes up a looming problem with the college preparation graduation requirements known as A-G coursework. Starting with the Class of 2017, students must pass the slate of college prep courses that are required to qualify for entry into the University of California and Cal State University systems.
The district estimates about 45 percent of sophomores are still not on track to meet the A-G mandate.
The A-G requirement is criticized by some who say it will hold back students who otherwise would meet the state’s graduation qualifications. The ethnic studies requirement got the green light before the latest district estimate that many students may fail to graduate on time.
Ethnic studies explores race and racism as “powerful social and cultural forces,” according to a University of California at Berkeley definition adopted by LAUSD. Students can meet the graduation requirement by taking African-American history, Mexican American literature or similar classes.
“We think this builds a young person’s sense of self and empathy in others,” said Manuel Criollo with Community Rights Campaign who advocated for the new course requirement at the school board’s November meeting.
EL Rancho Unified in Pico Rivera was the first district in the state to require students to take classes in ethnic studies, catching the attention of ethnic studies advocates and school administrators around California.
San Francisco Unified pledged to offer ethnic studies at every high school less than a month after LAUSD required it for graduation.
Tamar Galatzan was the only LAUSD board member to oppose the ethnic studies requirement, voicing concerns at the November meeting about its financial impact and whether the added requirement would pack students’ schedules too tightly.
“I believe we should work these issues out first,” Galatzan said last fall. Galatzan lost her bid for re-election in Tuesday’s runoff.
From the Community Rights Campaign web site:
“We are told the only solution to the symptoms of urban neglect—drugs, violence, joblessness—is more prisons, more police, and more punitive and discriminatory laws to lock more people up. A racist re-enslavement complex and rising police state are enveloping entire Black, Latino, immigrant, and low-income schools, communities, and individual lives—and tracking them into prison cells.
The Community Rights Campaign is organizing in L.A. high schools and among L.A.’s 500,000 low-income bus riders to build campaigns to push back the growing police/prison state and push forward an expanded social welfare state; push back the police/prisons/punishment approach to organizing society and push foward (sic) a resources/reparations/ redistribution approach.
We organize high school students in Take Action after school clubs to stop the school-to-prison pipeline and the schools-as-jails culture in favor of building a positive, empowered learning environment. We also seek to build broad coalitions to defeat local and state initiatives (such as Prop 6 and Prop 9 on the 2008 ballot) and police state programs (such as regional gang-databases) that criminalize our communities. Real public safety will be achieved only by challenging the Prison/Police State — not allying with it.”
Some of their “demands”:
- Schools, Not Pre-Prisons! Decriminalize tardiness, truancy and all student behavior issues.
- Cut funding for Police and Sheriffs
- End to the ICE Raids, Amnesty Now!
- End the racist “War on Drugs”
- Defeat and overturn reactionary “tough on crime” laws